For some reason, the best ideas always come to me when I’m sharpening knives. Something about the rhythmic chk-chk-chk as the blades graze the whetstone, or the focus on knowing just when you’ve got a good edge: all of that seems to free my mind from everything else. Not the kind of thing you can get away with at work, obviously.
So there I was, in the kitchen, and I’m thinking about what else needs doing over the weekend, and it occurs to me: no clean clothes. Again. And there’s nothing I hate more than a shopping expedition, in spite of what you might have heard. The people and the noise and—oh, it just does my head in. And it’s not like I’m the kind of girl who lives for a trip to H&M on a Saturday afternoon. Ex-cuse me. Well, maybe a few times. But not for business, thank you. There are standards to maintain. A certain… shall we say, set of preconceptions? And the practicalities, of course. Still, you can understand the new breed that say, sod it, go with acrylic—a bit of Vanish on any tricky stains and you can just bung a load in the washer and never worry about it again. No need to hang it out on the balcony to dry, which can be a real giveaway if you live in an area like mine. (Those neighbours, such nosy bastards.)
No, polyester just doesn’t cut it. Looks cheap. And clings where you least want it. Freedom of movement, blah blah blah, but they do they ever mention static? It took ages for someone to let me in on it, but a few years ago I found a nice little place on a Soho backstreet that’s dedicated to the kind of stuff I wear: sheer, and black. It has to be black. That’s what the clients expect. Expensive? Oh yes. But they’re discreet, and they only take cash. My kind of people.
Oh, the things they have on the peg would amaze you. And no, I’m not telling you where it is: that’s my little secret. There were times in the past—well, you understand it’s all for their benefit, but it’s nice to have something that’s comfortable and flattering instead of being trussed up all the time. And that shop? They got it. You know how it is when the people behind the counter realise that you’re not a timewaster or some bloody amateur, and start talking shop? It took me six months to get to ‘well, we could always take that in a bit’. And a lot longer for ‘oh, we just got some new fabric in that you’ll adore’. And finally, when I was flush enough, they measured me up for custom orders. Just. Gorgeous. Light, breathable, clingy where you want cling, but never tight or restricting. And none of the chafing or noise you get with the cheap stuff rubbing on itself.
Oh, you’re blushing. That’s sweet.
Anyway, I was doing my taxes last year—yes, like everyone else—and I realised just how much I was spending there. Think of a number, double it, stick a few noughts on the end. And I was tempted to write it off as a business expense. But that much? Might as well grab a big felt tip and write ‘Taxman, pay me a visit’ across the form. Yes, I could afford it, but it felt such a waste to come away with something so beautiful and have to toss it after a messy job. Honestly, some people have no consideration: you can take all the precautions you like, but they’re just intent on leaving their mark on you. Makes you glad to see the back of them.
I tried hand-washing, but once something’s dried on, it’s a bastard to get off. And it’s not like I can stop what I’m doing and dab my front with cold water. Dry-cleaners? Yeah, I even got a tip from my little shop on where to go. Dropped off a few outfits, came back a week later, and the snooty bitch in charge—a right Jean Brodie, she was—she said ‘oh, I’m terribly sorry. We tried our best, but we really can’t do anything with those kind of organic stains.’ Organic stains. Tch. It’s not a dirty word, it’s dirty clothes. And there they were: three hand-fitted two-pieces that looked like they’d been through a shredder. Useless.
My bright idea, then. A custom valet service. Weekly pickup by courier, or all-day drop-off if you work irregular hours or don’t want some sweaty biker knocking on your door. Cleaning, stitching, alterations, the works. I’ve got cash in the bank, and there’s an location I have in mind, nice and out of the way. And it’s a way to ease out of the game and stay in it, if you get my drift. I’m not getting any younger—not that I’m past it, you understand, there’s still a few years in me yet. But the way I see it, there’s nothing sadder than someone who doesn’t know when to quit. If you show up for a client looking like their mum, it’s going to be thanks-but-no- thanks and straight out the door. Or worse, ‘do you know anyone younger?’ If that’s not a sign to pack it in, I don’t know what is.
I understand, it’s not your usual kind of proposal. But there’s a market waiting to be served, and plenty of growth potential. And even if I say so myself, I’ve got the reputation to bring in customers from day one.
Trust me on this: when you’re a ninja, it really is that hard to get your laundry done.
By Holgate, 19 April, 2006; direct link.